Asia: Nikkei strikes fresh multi year highs



LONDON (ShareCast) - The Nikkei rose to the highest level in thirty three months, in robust trading volumes, fuelled by optimism about the quarterly earnings season.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed up 247 points at 11,113 in Tokyo, ending above 11,00 for the first time since April (Paris: FR0004037125 - news) 2010. The Hang Seng advanced 166 points at 23,822 in Hong Kong, a 21-month high.

Better than expected US corporate results from the likes of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (NYSE: PFE - news) set the upbeat tone in Asia on Wednesday. The Viagra drug producer reported an increase in fourth-quarter profits to $6.4bn from $1.4bn in the previous year.

In Japanese earnings news Yahoo Japan and Softbank (Xetra: 891624 - news) boosted market sentiment after giving encouraging profit expectations.

Yahoo Japan rallied 17.1% after also said it plans to buy back around ¥20bn of its own shares.

After the bell, camera maker Canon (Other OTC: CAJFF - news) is expected to report a 26% increase in operating profit for the year on reduced costs and as it benefits from the weakening yen.

Construction machinery firm Komatsu (Other OTC: KMTUY - news) shrugged off earlier losses to record a 2.2% gain as investors predict a robust fourth-quarter performance.

Central Japan Railway bounced 6.6% after posting a 49% hike in nine-month net profit. Rival train operator Keisei Electric Railway moved almost 2% higher.

Japanese retailers such as Fast Retailing surged 4.3% in Tokyo despite data showing Japan's retail sales rose a less than forecast 0.1% in December. Sales rose 0.4% from a year earlier.

Otherwise traders were also gearing up for US GDP data and a policy decision in the US later on today.

The US is expected to have grown at an annualised rate of 1.1% in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to 3.1% growth in the third quarter.

In Hong Kong shares of personal computer maker Lenovo fell 2.7% after it posted record quarterly profit, ahead of market expectations.

Elsewhere mobile phone operator China Unicom was up 1% after it said it expects to report a 50% increase in annual profit.